Thursday, March 20, 2008

Wallingford Homeowners Might Have to Hire Surveyor Prior to Making Improvements

It might be getting harder for Wallingford residents to make improvements to their homes. The Planning and Zoning Commission is considering an amendment, proposed by Town Attorney Adam Mantzaris, that would require homeowners to hire a professional surveyor if they wish to add a pool, deck or addition (but not a shed) to their homes.

The reason for this, officials say, is that there have been too many instances where homeowners have built either too close to or actually on their neighbors land. This could cost up to $3,500, depending on the surveying company used and whether or not the homeowner already has an existing boundary survey, also called an A2 survey. If they already have this, the cost would cost around $800. If not, the price jumps to about $2000 and up.

Currently, the town requires only a simple sketch of the location of the proposed improvement. The amendment would require a survey of the improvement in relation to property boundaries and zoning ordinances. It would also require that the homeowner make plans well in advance of the proposed start date of the project: surveys can take up to 3 weeks to complete, and many surveyors are backlogged 2-3 weeks.

Planning and Zoning Chairman James Fitzsimmons adknowledged the added expense for homeowners, but added: "You want to avoid disputes and you want to avoid the gray area, and this would eliminate the gray."

Personally, I think it's a good idea to have a survey done when you buy a property anyway, especially if no one can tell you with any certainty where the property lines are. When we bought our house a couple years ago, we thought a neighbor's structure was partially on our property so we had a survey done. As it turns out, the previous owners of our house had erected a fence that was partially on HIS property! Being good neighbors, we let him know and he was fine with it, which was nice of him. He could have been nasty and demand we relocate the fence, but he didn't, for which we were grateful. Still, without the survey we would have never known where our boundaries were, so in our case it was money well spent (about $600, by William F. Orsine & Assoc., Meriden, CT 203-235-6695).

Town Planner Linda Bush says she wants to publicize the proposal and hear from residents before it becomes law, so if you're so inclined or you plan on making any improvements to your property in the near future, contact Linda and let her know how you feel.

Pat & Wayne